Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pay attention

I stole this from the new blog that the girl from "strip club server" has started writing. I think it is time we paid attention to how we're spending our money. It got me to thinking about why the hell we have security deposits. I was in kind of a rush to get out of my last apartment and decided not to clean it. I figured I'd forfeit my $200 deposit and be done with it. My time was valuable to me. about 3 months later I got a later with a bill for over six hundred bucks for cleaning up my old apartment... What the hell was that deposit for then???... anyway... read this.. it details certain things better than I ever could

America, we have a problem.

Well, to be completely honest, we have more than one- but this is a really big problem that is affecting me in my life; so therefore it's the most important problem.

It's not the economy (although it could be better), it's not welfare (although it could use some reform as well). The problem which is paining me this evening is greed. Good ole' plain greed.

Now, I'm not talking about individual greed. No conspicuous consumption here, however if you're looking for an article that will completely disenchant you on the state of people, check that one out. What's even scarier is that it was written in 1902. I'm talking specifically about "big business" greed, and how it is affecting our nation.

Slowly over time we have allowed the nameless, faceless corporations, and even our own government, to anally rape us while we smile and pitifully ask for another like a bizarro Lifetime version of Oliver Twist. Gives a whole new meaning to the name Charles Dickens... heh.

But I digress...

It started rather simply, an energy rate hike here, an income tax increase there. Next thing you know everything is being dissipated by the powers that be.

Case in point: I went to Sam's Club last week to purchase insulin and other necessities for the home front. Insulin is tax exempt, so you will always pay a .99 on it. If you're buying from a smaller chain (Walgreens, USA Drug) you will pay around $34.99 for a bottle of Novelin R insulin. Sam's sells the same bottle for $19.99. At two bottles a month, these savings far outweighed any feelings of guilt from shopping at the mega-chain which is destroying our nation. Don't believe me? Check out "Wal-Mart: the high cost of low price." It will shock you.

Again, too much digressing....

Continuing on, I picked up the insulin, grabbed some toilet paper, and some cases of diet soda. I proceeded to the check out, showed my receipt to the door nazi, and headed out to the car. It wasn't until I got into the car and checked the receipt that I realized I had been had. Twice.

First of all, the purchases were rung up at the same time. Then a seven and some change percent sales tax was charged on the subtotal. Meaning the insulin was charged a sales tax. Big no-no. After that, another subtotal was rendered (adding in the seven percent sales tax) and then a smaller tax was charged again, on the second subtotal. A so-called "soda tax". This means, that I was taxed on a tax-free item, then taxed again on the tax I paid the first time.

It wasn't so much the out of pocket expense that pissed me off. It was the principle of the matter. How many people check their receipts for the tax information? Most people I know don't even bother checking their receipts to make sure they were charged the right amount at the store. I am not one of those people.

They did a "seven on your side" feature a few months ago on Kroger International foods. The investigative reporter went shopping, and then compared her receipt purchases to the ones advertised in the store. There were differences. Many differences. Close to ten dollars worth of differences. Although, for one person, ten dollars here and there doesn't add up to much, but think about how many people shop for groceries and purchase one brand over another because of the posted "sale price?" I have vivid memories of my mother staring at the register machine, noting each price as it was rung up and stopping the checker if something was different than what was posted. This in itself is a ridiculous hassle for the consumer and the cashier. The cashier then has to stop, get on her little mega-phone, call for a "price check," verify the price, then call the manager over to void/refund/adjust the price rung into the computer. Meanwhile, this drives the other people in line crazy while they impatiently wait for their turn to leave.

The bigger question here is this: do you really think the manager went back and fixed the posted price after my mother left? Hell no. She's probably more aggravated that someone noticed the difference. After all, she's thinking not of the consumer, but of the bottom line. Many of these stores either pay their managers on a scale basis, or judge the amount of their end of year bonuses based on the overall profit margin for their district. Loosely translated: the more their store sells, the more money goes into her pocket at the end of the year. Customer service is now a thing of the past.

These kinds of scams affected me in a very large way about six months ago. I lived in an apartment complex before Boyfriend and I moved into the home he was already renting. Upon first leasing my apartment, the office manager sat down with me and covered, in detail, the terms and conditions of my lease, including my thirty day notice, should I decide not to renew my lease. This thirty day notice does not cover intentional breaking of the lease, this is just for when your lease expires and you decide to vacate your apartment.

One year later my lease expired and I was offered a renewal. I decided to renew my lease and continue living in my apartment for another year. Mind you, the renewing of my lease hiked my rent up over fifteen percent, but I didn't care at the time. Now, this is not the "scam" that affected me, but it is a rather shitty thing to do. It would have cost me less to give them notice and then sign an entirely new lease rather than to renew my lease for another year.

Just so you know, I called and spoke to the apartment manager, who informed me that my original rental price was a "move in special" and I would now be paying the actual price per month on my town-house. Whatever.

Regardless, I continued living there for another year. My lease expired in August, and just like clockwork my rental offer came at the end of June. I declined their offer (yet another price hike- by the way. This time up twenty-five percent from the already increased fifteen percent) and filled out my thirty day notice form, promptly turning it in on June 30, one month and a day before my lease expired (July 31).

Six months ago I received a letter and a bill from my ex-landlords. The bill was for a full months rent, and the letter enclosed stated that I had violated my lease agreement by not giving them a full sixty-day notice. Because I only gave them thirty days, I was required to pay them rent for the month of August. Even though I didn't live in the apartment in August.

I called and spoke to the apartment manager the next day. The conversation went something like this:

ME: I'm calling in regard to this bill for a full months rent?

HIM: Yes, you were required by your lease to give us a full sixty-day notice. Since you only gave us thirty days we are charging you another month's rent.

ME: I'm looking at my lease right now, and it doesn't say anything about a sixty day notice. It requires a thirty day notice.

HIM: You're looking at your original lease. Last year we changed it to sixty-days.

ME: Then why wasn't I given a copy of the new terms?

HIM: Because you renewed your lease, rather than sign another one.

ME: So then, wouldn't I still only be required to give a thirty day notice, as applicable under the terms of my original lease?

HIM: No, we changed the policy last year.

ME: Were you able to rent the apartment out?

HIM: Yes, the apartment was rented.

ME: So, you want double rent? You've got someone else paying rent on that apartment and you want me to pay rent as well? For a month that someone else lived there?

HIM: The policy was changed to sixty days. You only gave us thirty days, so you are required to pay another month's rent.

ME: But if the policy changed to sixty days, why wasn't I given my renewal notice sixty days before my lease was up? Why only thirty days?

HIM: That's not our policy.

At this point I hung up.

America, it's time we started paying attention to our receipts and reading the fine print. This has got to stop. Big business has enough money already, they don't have to cheat the little people out of what small amount they have left over at the end of the month.

I'm no radical, but sometimes I wonder if the revolutionaries aren't on to something...

1 comment:

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